Thursday, September 18, 2008

Let the Eagles soar, while ruminating on a perfectly good game of FOOTBALL

U of T went 49 football games without a win. That's nothing.

Ernestown Secondary School went forty-eight years without a victory on the gridiron. Well, that status changed today. In the Things That Are Sad, Kind Of department, the Eagles' 23-22 win over the Loyalist Lancers gave at least one mid-'90s grad reason to change his Facebook status: "Neate is glorying in a team triumphant ... Ernestown 23 ... Loyalist 22." It calls for a celebration.

That being said, within a few minutes, four other K-Town Facebookers had shown the common courtesy to comment. Then an Out of Left Field contributor who's also a K-Towner and thus stood a chance of actually getting the joke, got a voice mail delivered in an incredibly poor imitation of the former Richardson Stadium public address announcer, CKWS sports anchor Doug Jeffries.
"A couple of out-of-town scores to pass along ... in the Kingston senior high school football league, Er-nes-town 23, Loyalist ... 22 ..."
Details of how the coach Lou Bilkovski's gridiron yearlings, the first group of Eagles to grace a gridiron, are left for tomorrow's Kingston Whig-Standard. (Loyalist is not exactly a football powerhouse, but it had at least had a team before.)

An explanation is probably due for why someone who's past age 30 would get so excited over a high school football game that he did not see, played in a city that he has not lived in since 2000. It is a little sad and lacking in self-awareness, yes?

Hardly. Well, Doc, it was always a hold-your-manhood-cheap, secret shame to be such a fanboy when it came to football, while having graduated from a high school which did not field a football team. It was like a living a lie. It's not for nothing that last sentence had football in it twice -- overcompensate, much?

Napanee District Secondary School, which offered football, was about the same distance from the Sager homestead as ESS. Back in 1991, just as now, if you went to Bath Public School, you had a choice of the two high schools. A few kids from Bath tried out both. A few did, multiple times.

In our home, though, it went without saying that you would attend Ernestown. Thus as a promising career as a quarterback running back starting linebacker, how about backup offensive lineman (see artistic approximation at right), was sabotaged. (Thanks, Mom.) Instead, a career in sports writing was born. (Thanks again, Mom, for knowing your sensitive son was better off at a smaller school.)

Other people who passed through ESS have gone on to lead happy, productive lives without caring that the school had this football void forever unfilled. Oh, Ernestown has had its moments on the court in basketball (some of its grads have done very well) and volleyball. More importantly, people went on from there to get good educations and lead happy, productive lives.

Sorry, but I'm Mojo Nixon on this (not sure on Elvis, though)

That is all well and good for some, but it could it make up for the lack of football? No, it could not.

Perhaps that was one reason for becoming such a nut for the sport -- typical geek-love for something you knew full well you would never be able to get. Over the ensuing years, it honestly meant feeling envious of anyone who had played the glorious game in the way that God had intended for football to be played, with helmets, pads and the forward pass.

Rugby and soccer are nice enough games, too. They just demanded way too much running for too little tangible reward, aside from the orange slices you got to have afterward. For a kid who hated running, it was best to treat them as peculiarities, better left to the weirdos over in the United Kingdom, Europe ... Asia ... Africa .. Australia ... pretty much all of Central and South America, really.

You can imagine what it was like to carry that inside, all these years, until today. It meant putting up with a lot of ribbing from people who went to other schools in the area. The legend held that ESS had a statue of a kicking horse instead of a football team. That "persisting urban legend," by the way, has permeated the local youth culture to the point where it has to be debunked on the school website.

Thanks to an Ernestown fan who was pressed into service as a stringer (thanks again, Mom), it can be reported that Bilkovski's boys did give up the first TD of the day. However, they came back with three touchdowns, including majors from tailback Dustin Teal and tight end Kody Turner, that staked them to a big enough lead to hang on for the W. It should have come as no surprise.

The majestic Eagles even pulled off a fake-kick fumblerooskie. The long snapper dribbled the ball along the ground instead of firing it crisply back to the holder. A teammate picked it up and swept around the end .

In a one-point game, that stratagem loomed large. The Minnesota Vikings should be so inventive when they're in the scoring zone. Really, they should.

Teal, Turner and the rest of the lads might not understand why one win would make the day, hell week, for someone who passed through the same school a decade and a half ago.

They will, in time. From the kicking horse, to kicking a little arse. It won't get headlines like U of T did, but then again, I never went to that school.


Duane Rollins said...

Is that 48-year losing streak a bit like Brock's 40+ year "undefeated" OUA record?

Pattington said...


Congrats! And thanks for the voicemail. Just wait though, 'til they play NDSS ;).


Dennis Prouse said...

Neate - great article! There is something magical about high school football that goes beyond the game. It's all of that rite of passage, boys to men, moment in time stuff that sounds hokey and contrived to those who haven't had the experience, but is very real to people who love the sport.

I can speak to this as someone who both played high school football, and has coached it at the community level for years. At the community level, it is about the game itself. In high school, it is about all the teachers, friends, enemies, rival schools, potential girlfriends, you name it. The emotions involved just don't compare.

There are all sorts of kids who play high school football and then leave the game afterwards, even though they had a chance to keep playing. (I know, as I have tried to recruit a lot of them to play Midget ball at the community level.) Without the team jacket, though, and without all the friends watching, the game lost a great deal of its lustre for them. Now they have to run their butts off, get pummelled at practice, but instead of having a big chunk of the school watching, it's just friends and family at the local stadium or community park on a Saturday. I realize that in Canada it's not the whole "Friday Night Lights" phenomenon, but I certainly understand the emotions of it all, having lived a bit of it myself.

Anonymous said...

I played on this team, it was really amazing to win our first ever game we played. Just remembering being on the bus before we got there and how everyone was dead quiet. All of us were nervous but in the end we came out on top. It was an experience I'll never forget in that it was such a big event for the school and Odessa. Some of the boys are even getting tattoos to remember. It was awesome, great article, I've read it like 6 times now haha.

Anonymous said...

yeah and this year with me and my brother on the team we are now in third or forths in kingston and are going to the semi finals with either HC or Frontenac cant wait

Anonymous said...

As a former ESS alumni, it should be pointed out that ESS has only had a football program for two years. It hardly qualifies as a 48 year losing streak!!!

sager said...

Dear Anonymous Former ESS Eagle,

The post was written two years ago after the team's very first game. You might have read it as "48-year losing streak," but anyone with a sense of humour and relatively decent reading comprehension would have got the joke. (Please keep in mind U of T had just earned national headlines for ending its losing streak, thus it was topical.)

I happen to have the latter because Ernestown, in my day, had an exemplary English department full of fine educators such as Doris McWhorter, Peter Peart, Judi Wyatt and Sue Van Wart. Without them, I would not reached my station in life.

Since Ernestown's school motto is amor doctrine floreat, "may the love of learning flourish," surely you won't mind a couple pointers. There is no such thing as a "former alumni," since alumni means people who graduated in the past.

Also, you are not an alumni; that's the plural form. You are either an alumna (feminine) or alumnus (masculine).

Go Eagles!

Neate Sager
Class of '96